During the hoopla surrounding UFC 130 over Memorial Day weekend it was announced that the rumored super fight between former Pride Heavyweight champion Fedor Emelianenko and current Strikeforce Light Heavyweight champion Dan Henderson was made official. The bout will be contested at heavyweight and will be the main event for the Strikeforce event on July 30 from the Sears Centre in the Chicago suburb of Hoffman Estates.
Fedor was expected to be meeting the winner of the June 18 match-up between Alistair Overeem and Fabricio Werdum, but The Last Emperor was defeated by Antonio Silva in February in the opening round of the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix. It was the second consecutive loss for the Emelianenko after nearly ten years without a loss. The aura of invincibility around Fedor is now gone and he did consider retirement but the desire to complete apparently still burns within the Russian great.
Henderson was the only man to simultaneously hold titles in two different weight classes while with Pride. After unsuccessful title challenges at middleweight and light heavyweight in the UFC, Henderson signed with Strikeforce and was defeated by Jake Shields in middleweight title scrap but rebounded to knockout Rafael вЂњFeijaoвЂќ Cavalcante in March to capture the Strikeforce Light Heavyweight title.
This bout matches two aging MMA superstars and two of the top draws on the Strikeforce roster and the bout makes a lot of sense for both fighters. With the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix still in its opening round, it could be a long wait for Fedor to return to the cage against top competition. That wait is not a positive for the fans or for Fedor, who needs to return to action sooner rather than later. While Henderson has a top-notch wrestling pedigree, the man they call Hendo has become largely a power puncher inside the cage with his last three wins coming via knockout as part of the 12 TKOs on his MMA resume. Fedor has lost his last to bouts to grappling heavy Brazilians Fabricio Werdum and Antonio Silva, but has fared well with strikers like Andrei Arlovski and Brett Rogers. Henderson is a dangerous striker to be sure but Fedor has excelled with his striking and grappling when facing stand-up fighters.
The bout makes sense for Henderson as well. Fedor is still one of the most highly respected and recognizable names in all of MMA and a win over the Fedor legend can only help the career of Henderson. Also, with the bout coming at heavyweight, Henderson will retain the Strikeforce Light Heavyweight title win or lose. Currently there are no true title challengers for Henderson in the light heavyweight division. If former champion Gegard Mousasi had notched a convincing victory over Keith Jardine in April, he would likely be challenging Henderson for the strap. This non-title bout will also give former champions Feijao Cavalcante and King Mo Lawal the opportunity to pick up wins to earn a shot at the title they once held. Lawal is returning from a knee injury and will need at least one and probably two bouts to be ready to challenge Henderson.
This bout is a good move for both Emelianenko and Henderson but it is also a winning situation for the Strikeforce organization and most importantly the fans. Fedor gets a chance to revive his career, Henderson gets a chance to cement his own legend in MMA, Strikeforce gets a huge draw and keeps two of its top performers in action and the fans get a great fight between two MMA legends. It definitely makes sense for everyone.